Fake coffee on TV news

The New York Times reported something this week that, as if local TV news wasn’t bad enough already, it’s found new depths. And in this case, a worrying trend that started in Vegas isn’t staying there.

Each morning, two plastic containers of McDonald’s iced coffee have been sitting on the desk in front of the anchors of Fox 5’s morning news program. Neither anchor ever acknowledges them or touches them. They can’t drink them because they’re just props, designed to look like iced coffee yet hold up under the hot studio lights.

The Las Vegas Sun first reported the story on Monday. The station’s news director Adam P. Bradshaw calls its deal with McDonald’s a “nontraditional revenue source.” And, as the Sun reports: “…Lest there be any concerns about mixing fact (the morning news) with fiction (fake coffee), [Bradshaw] points out that the cups are put out only after 7 a.m., when the hard news gives way to light lifestyle news.”

What the… ?

Sure, John Cameron Swayze smoked a cigarette as he delivered the news on air back in the 1950s. But he did it on the Camel News Caravan. The sponsorship was overt, not some subliminal, slimy product placement on local TV. Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute, a non-profit journalism training center, told the Sun that product placement in a newsroom “represents the ‘slippage’ of news into advertisement, a descent into a dark world where conglomerate companies control coverage.” Of course, the station in question is owned by Fox, which on a national level, has its own agena.

The Times reported that McDonald’s has also product placements on morning news shows on WFLD-TV in Chicago, which is owned and operated by Fox; on KCPQ-TV in Seattle, a Fox affiliate owned by the Tribune Company; and on Univision 41 in New York City, according to Danya Proud, a McDonald’s spokeswoman. I can’t remember the last time I watched a morning local news program, much less one on a Fox network, so I haven’t seen what they’re pushing on the Seattle program. I’m not sure if it’s worth tuning in at 7 a.m. to listen to pointless “lifestyle” news and insipid banter to find out.

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